ads without products


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Of course, even the ad without products has been pressed into service from time to time, and ever more often of late.

There is so much to say about this one. I’m thinking about using a whole bunch of ads this semester when I teach, this one, the ikea lamp. I finally found a utility that allows me to rip them out of youtube and keep them warm and safe on my hard drive…

Anyway, telegraphically: a picture perfect example of the perverse fetishization of banality itself, warm eroticization of the stupid office plant, the breathless building. A smackdab of “love at last sight” – where the “un éclair… puis la nuit” of the exchanged glances rhymes with, really encapsulates, the ever the same / ever new temporality of the rest of the commercial – and is in turn sublimated into the car itself.

Benjamin said, at the end of the Work of Art essay, that mankind’s “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.” Here, we’re not quite dealing with the destruction of mankind in the flames of fascism – not quite, and lots of that to be had elsewhere – but there is something to be said about the sexiness of this officespace and this officelife in this ad that of course would be entirely absent in real life.

Compare: Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera… Which, yes, exposes the apparatus, massifies the everyday life in question, but actually, in a sense, is up to something similar enough to be interesting – save without the product, or almost-product in this case, at the end.

The ELO song, appropriately enough, was featured in the trailer for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, though I can’t remember (ha!) whether it made it into the film itself.

It couldn’t be something as simple as an unconsciously prophetic sense that these office jobs, they’re not staying forever. A future perfect nostalgia for what only will have been, not be. As I stalk and smoke around the modernist office park where I teach, I am struck intermittently with the strange knowledge that this job can’t possibly last a lifetime. I’m not talking about tenure, not talking about moving on, I mean the humanities itself, the university. I am young to be an assistant professor – I have about 40 years to do before social security kicks in (ha, again! that’s another thing…) There’s no way it will last that long. It, like everything else, will be rationalized, auctioned off, streamlined, offshored, outsourced, rightsized, done away with in the interest of efficiency. I can see myself now with the eyes of the year after next. The phenomenology of precarité, the erosive geology of late-but-not-getting-any-later capitalism. And my business is far more insulated from the vicissitudes of the weather called creative destruction than, say, our office worker’s in the VW ad.

The car, in other words, is not the only thing that is convertible. Things move quickly: ask yourself if they would make the same ad today… Instead, stuff like this, in which a gnawing banality no one even bothers to aestheticize meets with the catastrophic, emptily.

(Confession: my fascination with the first ad, the Bill Briggs one, is probably what led me to buy my own VW. Not a beetle convertible of course – what do you take me for? But a zippy Jetta wagon, turbo and everything.)

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 4, 2006 at 9:47 am

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